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New York High Court: custodial parents can be convicted of kidnapping too

Disputes between ex-spouses and former partners can become quite contentious. When children are brought into the middle of such disputes, their emotional and mental health can suffer. And sometimes their very life is in danger.

One way ex-spouses and partners sometimes put children in the middle of disputes is to kidnap them. Kidnapping isn't necessarily a dramatic occurrence. Kidnapping can occur when one parent takes and conceals a child from the other parent, often for any length of time. The possible motivations for doing so are multiple: to force some kind of reconciliation or continued interaction; to spite the other parent; out of fear of losing custody or visitation rights; or even to protect the child from a parent who is felt to be a negative influence or a danger. Regardless of the motivations, it is not okay.

Typically it is noncustodial parents that kidnap children and have to face consequences. But according to a recent decision by New York's highest court, even a custodial parent can be convicted of kidnapping. The recent decision arose from a case in which a father was convicted of kidnapping, burglary, weapon possession, and child endangerment in connection with a 2008 incident at the home of his young daughter's mother, his ex girlfriend.

The father was accused of holding his 6-week-old daughter under a knife after police arrived to investigate a domestic dispute between him and his former girlfriend's home the night before. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison as a result of the incident.

According to the court, a custodial parent can be convicted of kidnapping where that parent's conduct is "unjustifiably dangerous or harmful to the child [so] as to be inconsistent with the idea of lawful custody."

Parents facing a situation where kidnapping could be a possibility do well to contact an attorney to find out what their options are for protecting their children.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "NY court: Custodial parent can be guilty of kidnapping," May 31, 2012

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